Tag Archives: Christmas

The Light That Leads Us Home

The following text is an excerpt from the recently released “The Light That Leads Us Home” booklet published by the Vineyard USA.

“’Twas the night before Christmas…” the 19th century poem begins, and goes on to say, “…the stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there.”

Saint Nicholas. Known in many countries for over a thousand years as Father Christmas, Pere Noel, Weihnachtsmann (“the Christmas Man”), and, of course, Santa Claus, the name of Saint Nicholas has become synonymous with the ideas of winter, generosity, festivity, presents, children, box stores, outrageous sales, and last, but not least – Christmas.

The-Light-That-Leads-Us-Home.190A Generous Man

Though legends abound, Nicholas was a real person who lived in the 4th century AD. Nikolaos of Myra, as he was known, was the Greek Bishop of that city (now known as Demre, part of modern day Turkey).

Born on March 15, 270 in the port city of Patara (also in Turkey), he died on December 6, 343, and was the son of wealthy, Greek Christian parents. Nicholas grew up in a home full of faith, and after his parents died in an epidemic, he went on to become a priest, and later, a Bishop (a pastor of pastors).

In his lifetime, Nicholas was respected for his acts of kindness and generosity. He was known especially for giving gifts in secret. It was said that he would put coins in the empty shoes of those who were poor when they left them out for him to see.

Legends grew around this great man of faith into the story of the chimney-descending Santa Claus we tell to children today.

The Stories We Tell At Christmas

While our thousands of tales about Saint Nicholas are imaginative, and maybe even fun, are they true enough to give us guidance, to give us light, for our everyday lives

And we have other stories of the season we enjoy at Christmas, each with its own bit of light to shed on our path. Maybe your favorite, like mine, is one of the following:

• It’s A Wonderful Life (“Teacher says every time a bell rings…”),
• A Christmas Carol (“You may be an undigested bit of beef, …a crumb of cheese…”),
• Miracle On 34th Street (“I believe, I believe; it’s silly, but I believe…”),
• White Christmas (“’How do you do?’ ‘Mutual, I’m sure.’”),
• A Christmas Story (“You’ll shoot your eye out!”), or
• Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (“…Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”)

Stories That Give Limited Light

While all of these stories (and the memorable songs attached to them) are endearing and heartwarming, conveying beautiful truths about family, friendship, and generosity, they all have a limit to their ability to offer real guidance to our lives.

• We never hear someone going through a divorce reciting lines from It’s A Wonderful Life to help them walk through their pain.

• We never hear parents, whose teenager is estranged from them, singing Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer to console themselves that everything will be okay.

• We certainly never hear the child of a parent dying of cancer praying to Santa Claus as their hope for healing.

Why not? These are not stories from which we can find sufficient light for our entire life’s journey. Sure, these stories shine some rays of truth on our situations, but they still leave deep shadows unaddressed. They can never truly guide us, with a bright Light, to safety, to peace, to harmony in relationships, to life that lasts forever – to Home.

The Light That Leads Us Home

God’s Word is called a “…Light to my path” in the Bible (Psalm 119:105). For billions of people over thousands of years, the Scriptures have provided vital guidance to people walking through life’s hardest challenges.

The New Testament in the Bible goes further to say that there is a Light that can live in us and be with us as we navigate life’s difficult terrain.

As the truest Christmas Story ever told opens in the book of Matthew, Jesus Christ steps on the scene of human history and says these seven, simple words recorded in John 8:12:

“I am the Light of the World.”

The Light we all need for life’s journey must transcend the passing comfort of Christmas lights, and even the soft glow of family and friends. We need a lasting Light, a guiding Light, that shines in the shadows of our darkest fears and deepest failures, penetrating them with truth and life and faith – and Hope for the future.

The Light that we all need to experience this Christmas season is the Light of the World – the Light whose name is Jesus.

He is the One that Saint Nicholas bowed down to worship. He is the Light that is available to us through our brightest days and darkest nights. He is here to shine on you this Christmas, to lead you Home.

Enter The True Story Of Christmas

You may be facing some challenges that a cup of egg nog and Christmas cookies can never fix. If that’s true, embrace the lasting Hope of Christmas once again, with fresh faith – the faith of a child.

Celebrating Christmas, the Invasion of History by the Creator God

advent candleToday we are celebrating Christmas, the invasion of human history by the Creator of Heaven and Earth. Over this last month we have celebrated the Advent – the time in which the church celebrated both the birth of Jesus the Christ in his First Advent, and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent.  It is celebrating a truth about God, the revelation of God in Christ whereby all of creation might be reconciled to God.  That is a process in which we now participate, and the consummation of which we anticipate.

In this double focus on past and future, Advent symbolizes the spiritual journey of individuals and a community of Jesus followers. We affirm that Christ has come, that He is present in the world today, and that He will come again. This acknowledgment provides a basis for Kingdom ethics, for holy living arising from a profound sense that we live “between the times” and are called to be faithful stewards of what is entrusted to us as God’s people.

So, as the church celebrates God’s in-breaking into history in the Incarnation, and anticipates a future consummation to that history for which “all creation is groaning awaiting its redemption,” it also confesses its own responsibility as a people commissioned to “love the Lord your God with all your heart” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.” It is like Franciscan Father Richard Rohr once said:

“We [believe] that the Incarnation was already the Redemption, because in Jesus’ birth God was already saying that it was good to be human, and God was on our side.”

Candles

About two hundred years ago the church began the tradition of lighting candles each Sunday of the advent.  Each of the candle represent a part of our awaiting for Jesus:

  • Hope
  • Peace
  • Joy
  • Love
  • The white, and last candle, is the Christ candle

Hope

Hope-candleHope is a powerful concept. It is a desire for a certain thing to happen…waiting, patience….hoping….trusting in something you can’t see or yet experience.  Hope can keep you going even when things are tough.

There is a yearning for deliverance from the evils of the world, first expressed by Israelite slaves in Egypt as they cried out from their bitter oppression.  It is the cry of those who have experienced the tyranny of injustice in a world under the curse of sin, and yet who have hope of deliverance by a God who has heard the cries of oppressed slaves and brought deliverance!

It is that hope, however faint at times, and that God, however distant He sometimes seems, which brings to the world the anticipation of a King who will rule with truth and justice and righteousness over His people and in His creation. It is also a hope that is built upon the historical truth that God is on the side of humanity because of He has already come once and has broken the chains of sin and evil that bind us.

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.  (Titus 2:11-14)

Lighting the Hope Candle

Reader: Every year we light candles as we prepare for the coming of Christ
More and more candles, more and more light
As we watch and wait for Jesus, the Light of the World

All: God of Promise, come into our darkness
Renew your hope in us,
For you alone bring life out of death.

Reader: Receive God’s promise of hope from Psalm 33:
The eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him,
On those who hope is in His unfailing love,
To deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.

All: We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.
In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name.
May Your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord,
Even as we put our hope in You.

peace-candlePeace

Peace is normally defined as the absence of conflict or sound. We, however, looked at how this word is defined differently God’s story. Peace is a state of being, a sense that all is well, of tranquility and contentment in life… There is a sense that we can crawl into God’s lap and have that peace – a wholeness that comes with being with the One who Made Everything.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)

Lighting the Peace Candle

Reader: Every year we light candles as we prepare for the coming of Christ
More and more candles, more and more light
As we watch and wait for Jesus, the Light of the World

All: God of Promise, come into our darkness
Renew your hope and peace in us,
For you alone bring life out of death.

Reader: Receive God’s promise of peace from Psalm 4:
Know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;
The Lord will hear when we call to him

All: Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord
We will lie down and sleep in peace,
For you alone, O Lord, make us dwell in safety

joy-candleJoy

Joy is a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. Normally we think that joy only comes when things are right and everything is going smooth. Yet, in reading the Holy Scripture we find that we can have joy not based upon fleeing emotions.

Our joy is based God’s presence and the knowledge that He came down into human history and set loose the chains that bound us. We are free from sin, evil and death!! No longer do we have to live under the yoke of darkness, but can thrive under the light of God!!

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

Lighting the Joy Candle

Reader: Every year we light candles as we prepare for the coming of Christ
More and more candles, more and more light
As we watch and wait for Jesus, the Light of the World

All: God of Promise, come into our darkness
Renew your hope and peace and joy in us,
For you alone bring life out of death.

Reader: Receive God’s promise of joy from Psalm 28:
Praise be to the Lord
For He has heard my cry for mercy
The Lord is my strength and my shield

All: My heart trust in Him, and I am helped
My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to Him in song

love candleLove

Love one of the most powerful things on the planet. It can be both an emotion and a decision. When things get tough and relationships are hard, we don’t stop loving just because we lost an emotional feeling. There is a decision that keeps us going through the pain and rough parts of life.

When God created the heavens and the earth, he did something very unique. He made man and women in his image and breathed life into them. He gave them the freedom to choose to follow Him or not to follow Him. It was a risking decision that could mean the destruction of everything God made. But he did it because he loved us!

And even after we turned out backs on Him, He loved us. So much so that He invaded our history to set us free from sin, evil, darkness, pain and death.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  -1 John 4:9-10

Lighting the Love Candle

Reader: Every year we light candles as we prepare for the coming of Christ
More and more candles, more and more light
As we watch and wait for Jesus, the Light of the World

All: God of Promise, come into our darkness
Renew your hope, your peace, your joy and your love in us,
For you alone bring life out of death.

Reader: Receive God’s promise of love from Psalm 36:
Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
Your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains
Your judgments are like the great deep
You save humans and animals alike, O Lord.

All: How precious in your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.
They feast on the abundance of Your house
And You give them drink from the river of Your delights.

adventchristcandleThe Christ Candle 

Just like the Father Rohr quote read at the beginning of this post, Christmas is the forerunner for Easter. In Christmas God was saying that it was good to be human and that He was on our side. We are free from the guilt, pain, sin, and evil that bounds us because of the birth of Jesus marks the beginning of the invasion of human history by God Himself!

We live between the times – between the first and second Advent of Jesus. We live with both victory and defeat, pain and healing. Yet throughout it all, we proclaim that Jesus is King!

All hail! Let there by joy!

Hail to the King, hail to the King.
Blessed is He, blessed is He.

The peace of earth to Him;

The joy of heaven to Him.

The homage of a King be His
King of all victory

The welcome of a Lamb be His,
Lamb of all glory;
The Son of glory down from on high
All hail, let there be joy.

Deep in the night
The voice of the waves on the shore
Announced to us: Christ is born!
Son of the King of kings
From the land of salvation,
The mountain glowed to Him,
The plains glowed to Him,
Then shone the sun on the mountains high to Him.
All hail, let there be joy.

God the Lord has opened a Door.
Christ of hope, Door of joy!
Son of Mary, hasten Thou to help me!

In me, Lord Christ, let there be joy.

Love: An Advent Post

loveLove is interesting as a word because we use it so often (“I love this show, pizza, etc..”). It is also one of the most powerful things on the planet. Love is more powerful than fear, anger or revenge. There are tons of movies, shows, and songs sung about love. I would even say that most of the stories that have been passed down throughout the ages have deal with love, no matter what the culture or people group. Yet we still use the word loosely…

Love Defined

The dictionary defines love as

  • an intense feeling of deep affection.
  • a deep romantic or sexual attachment to someone.
  • a great interest and pleasure in something.

It is a word that can be both a noun and a verb. Or in different words, it is something that is both an emotion and a decision. An emotion as there are times when we have that intense feeling of affection; a decision because love is more than just emotions. When things get tough and relationships are hard, we don’t stop loving just because we lost an emotional feeling. There is a decision that keeps us going through the pain and rough parts of life.

Joseph’s decision

Speaking of decisions, have you ever thought about the decision Joseph had to make? Here was a man well liked by his community engaged to get married to the daughter of another well-known community member who had the reputation of following God. Then out of the blue his gal was found to be pregnant!

At first everyone thought that he, Joseph, had slept with her. But instead of confirming this rumor, Mary, his fiance, claimed that she did not have sex with him or anyone else for that matter. No, she claimed that God visited her one night and created a baby inside her through his spirit!!

What was Joseph to do?! He loved Mary and didn’t want to do her harm…

Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. –Mathew 1:19

Only the Lord God had other plans. He sent an angel to Joseph and told he what was going on:

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” –Mathew 1:20-21

Yet, Joseph still had a choice to make. He could listen to God and take Mary as his wife, rumors and all…. or he could play it safe and divorce her quietly… In the end we know that Joseph chose to take Mary has his wife and raise her son as his own in spite of all the rumors and nasty talk going on in the community.

God’s Love

You see, like Joseph, God has put his reputation and plans at  risk in an effort to love us. When God created the heavens and the earth, he did something very unique. He made man and women in his image and breathed life into them. Unlike the rest of creation, humans had the freedom to choose between walking with God or to rejecting him. They could choose between good and evil.

It was a risking decision that God made – one that could mean the destruction of everything he made. But He loved us so that much that he took a gamble on us and gave us the freedom to choose. And even when we made the choice to reject him, God still loved us. In fact he loved us so much that he decided to invaded human history to show us a new way of living:

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  -1 John 4:9-10

This is love. Not merely an emotion nor a decision made lightly. It is true love – something so powerful that it’s voice rings through the ages.

Our Choice

This brings us to our choice. We can choose to accept God’s love or not. The choice is there regardless of what we do as God’s love has broken the chains that bind us and set us free. We just need to say “yes, Lord” and walk after him. We have to shake off the old, unlocked chains and be free.

This is what Christmas is about. The Love of God invading the world and setting us free from the bonds of evil one!

This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

 We love because he first loved us.  –1 John 4:13-19

Celtic Advent Prayer

God of the watching ones, give us Your benediction.

God of the waiting ones, give us your good word for our souls

God of the watching ones the slow and the suffering ones, give us Your benediction,

Your good word for our souls that we might rest.

God of the watching ones, the waiting ones, the slow and the suffering ones, 

and the angels in heaven, and the child in the womb, give us your benediction,

your good word for our souls, that we might rest and rise in the kindness of your company.

2014 Hopping Family Newsletter

family 2014Dear Friends and Family,

Merry Christmas from Josh, Emily, J and introducing Baby Hopping – for the first time ever we have reached the 4-month mark of a pregnancy! Just a few months after our failed adoption this summer we found out that God had answered J’s frequent prayers for another baby in an unexpected way. After only 2 pregnancies in our whole 14 years of marriage – both of which ended within the first 2 months – we had given up on producing biological children and were happily growing our family through adoption (something that we still believe in strongly and hope to get to do again at some point in the future.) Then J learned how to pray and regularly prayed for God to bring us another baby (in addition to praying blessings for Andrew and his birth-mom who decided to parent) – the faith of a 4-year-old is pretty potent!

Thank you all for your prayers as well – we have really appreciated them throughout 2014 as we have faced a lot of transitions and hard times! We spent this spring finding a new pastor for the Vineyard church in Sweet and getting our house ready to sell. God brought the perfect couple to take our place and the transition was complete and official on June 1, 2014. The house, however, has proven to be a bit tougher of a process – after only one showing since April we put it on the rent market as well as for sale, but we’ve only gotten 3 lookers total even after dropping our price several times. We’ve reconciled ourselves to being here for the winter. It would still be nice to get the move over before the baby is born in early May – being closer to Emily’s parents would make it much easier to get help from Grandma!

J has been thoroughly enjoying his time at big-kid preschool. He was sad to miss school for a week for Thanksgiving – the kids were all giving each other big hugs the week before, missing each other in advance! Every week he comes home with a new letter that he’s learned and picks them out in his bedtime books. They’ve been getting ready for a Christmas concert in a couple of weeks, so he’s been singing a lot of Christmas carols lately (especially Jingle Bells and bits of The Little Drummer Boy.) Emily has been volunteering in his library every-other-week reading books to each of the 7 preschool classes (three 3-yr-old classes and four 4-yr-old classes.)

Josh has been filling the time he used to spend writing sermons with working on the book he started writing a few years ago and has been enjoying it immensely – he’s over half way done with the initial draft and is building his editing team to take it to the next level. He is also looking forward to his first class at St. Stephen’s University next fall. It’s the same module that he started last year and none of the books have changed, so he’ll be able to skim most of the books and has some of the papers already written. Luckily his brain tends to retain such things pretty well, so the fact that it’s been 2 years since he’s read some of these books won’t slow him down much. He’s excited to finally be making some progress forward in the dream of a Master’s degree that God gave him over a decade ago. He’s still been working as a Brand Analyst though his title recently changed to Reporting Analyst – a small change, but one that will free him up to do more pioneering with some investigative reports with which he’s been having great success and a fair bit of recognition throughout the company. Prayers would be appreciated as he moves forward in all of these areas.

Our future is still up in the air as we continue to try to sell the house and pray about God’s next assignment for us. We took a week in the mountains to pray in October and God did give us some first steps – including Josh continuing to pursue his education. The other cool project that we’re going to get to start in January is a family small group with a big focus on outreach and getting the kids involved in all aspects of learning and serving. It’ll give us a good chance to try out some interactive learning styles that we may be able to apply in our next church plant as well as giving us opportunities to do family activities together with other families – J our little socialite will enjoy that! A friend recommended this place: funtopiaworld.com/glenview/, so that might be something to look into as a possible outing with the children.

We’ve been going to church at the Vineyard Boise a lot of Sundays but have also enjoyed visiting the Sweet Vineyard regularly as well – Richard and Mardie, the new pastors, have been doing a really good job keeping things going there and the loving family atmosphere is still such a blessing.

Thanks again for all your prayers and support this year! Thank you all who sent in donations to help with our adoption this summer. Some of those donations will go to cover the expenses that we incurred for the failed adoption and some of them will go to fund another Christian family’s adoption and help a child find a forever home. May the Lord bless you all richly in the year to come. We love you all!

Lots of love and blessings from,

-Josh, Emily, and J

Joy: An Advent Post

joy 2In our series so far we have talked about Hope and Peace. Today we are going to talk about Joy, that emotion of pleasure and happiness.

Because we live in a world full of darkness and pain, it is easy for our joy to be restricted and swashed.  Yet if our hope is in the promises of God and our peace is in knowing Jesus, then our joy should not be controlled by our circumstances but, instead, it should be based upon one thing and one thing only:

That God Himself came down into human history and set loose the chains that bound us. That God Himself freed us from sin, evil, death and all darkness. We no longer have to live under the yoke of darkness, but can thrive under the light of God!!   

Sorrow, no matter how painful it may be, should not take away our joy. As the Prophet Habakkuk said:

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.  –Habakkuk 3:17-18

Victory also should not control our joy. In Luke 10, when the 72 returned to Jesus after their mission to tell people about the Kingdom of God, it says they “returned in joy” because the demons submitted to them in Jesus’ name. Instead of rejoicing with them, Jesus replied:

“I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.  -Luke 10:18-20

We are to be joyful regardless of victory or defeat. Why? Because the King has come! We know the One who Created the Heavens and the Earth!  This is why St. James could say:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. – James 1:2-4

Or the writer of Hebrews could say:

Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. – Hebrews 10:32-35

Or St. Paul

And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.2 Corinthians 8:1-2

St. Paul also declared in  2 Corinthians 7:4 that his “joy knows no bounds” despite all his troubles. And what were those troubles, we may ask? Well, in the previous chapter, St. Paul describes the physical beatings, imprisonments, hard work, sleepless nights and hunger that he has gone through. Yet in the middle of all that, he still stands up and declares that his “joy knows no bounds!” Amazing!!

If joy is simply an un-controlled emotion, then this would be impossible. But it is not!! Joy is a choice, a frame of mind – nay – it is a way of re-seeing the world around us through the eyes of Jesus. It is also a fruit of the Spirit of God, something that comes through knowing and walking after Jesus.

Joy to the World

This brings us right back to Christmas and to a group of outcast people, i.e. shepherds. True, some of Israel’s great heroes were shepherds — Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David. Both Psalm 23 and Jesus compare God’s care to that of a Good Shepherd. But in the First Century, it seems, shepherds — specifically, hireling shepherds — had a rather unsavory reputation. Jeremias (German Lutheran theologian) cites Rabbinic sources to the effect that “most of the time they were dishonest and thieving; they led their herds onto other people’s land and pilfered the produce of the land.”

A midrash or Jewish commentary on Psalm 23:2 reads, “There is no more disreputable occupation than that of a shepherd.” Philo, a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher of Alexandria (25 BC – 45 AD), wrote about looking after sheep and goats, “Such pursuits are held mean and inglorious.”

It was to these outcasts, folks outside the normal places of society that the angels of God appeared  (Luke 2:10-12)

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

The long awaited Messiah had come!!! The world is going to be different!! Joy in all circumstances was now available through the invasion of God in human history.

Celtic Advent Prayer

God of the watching ones, give us Your benediction.

God of the waiting ones, give us your good word for our souls

God of the watching ones the slow and the suffering ones, give us Your benediction,

Your good word for our souls that we might rest.

God of the watching ones, the waiting ones, the slow and the suffering ones, 

and the angels in heaven, and the child in the womb, give us your benediction,

your good word for our souls, that we might rest and rise in the kindness of your company.

Celebrate Jesus’ Birthday by Fighting Ebola and Saving Lives!

Please, please watch this quick 3-minute video about the Vineyard’s response to the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone. Our brothers and sisters need out help and what better way to celebrate Jesus’ birthday than to help the dieing, the poor and the hungry…

Watch the video, read about what is happening, and then donate funds to help the fight to save lives. Together we can be the hands and feed of Jesus to change the world for His glory.

 

Peace: It’s Who You Know

peace 2What do you think of when you think of peace? Miss USA saying they want world peace? Perhaps the absence of conflict?

Google defines “peace” as:

  • Freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility.
  • Freedom from or the cessation of war or violence.

Both definitions are ‘from’ something. We want “peace and quiet”; we want calmness…. Yet if we look at the Greek word for peace – εἰρήνη (pronounced: ā-rā’-nā ) – we finds a different meaning:

  • a state of national tranquillity
  • peace between individuals, i.e. harmony, concord
  • security, safety, prosperity, felicity,

The Hebrew word for peace, שָׁלוֹם or shalom, carries with it the same focus as the Greek word:

  • completeness, soundness, welfare, peace
  • completeness (in number)
  • safety, soundness (in body)
  • welfare, health, prosperity
  • quiet, tranquillity, contentment
  • friendship

Peace, in other words, is not just the absence of conflict, but a state of being. There is tranquility and contentment in life; a sense that all is well.

Prince of Peace

Peace, as defined by the Bible, goes even deeper than just living. One of the names for God in the OT is “Yahweh Shalom” or God of Peace (Judges 6:24). This name was also given to Jesus:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  (Isaiah 9:6)

Peace, therefore, is less of an absence  of something (noise, problems, troubles, etc.) and more of ‘who you know’” You [God] will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal. (Isaiah 26:3-4)

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. (2 Thessalonians 3:16)

 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)

Cuddling Up

One of the cool things about being a father is having my son come up and try to cuddle. He could have had a rough day full of disappointments (as only a 4-year old can have!). But the moment he craws into my lap or I pick him up and hold him, there is peace. All is right with the world, Dad is there.

That is the way it is with us and our Father in Heaven:

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)

We can crawl into God’s lap and have that peace – the wholeness that comes with being with the One who Made Everything. We have security and safety in His arms. This is why St. Paul, a man who was beaten, whipped, shipwrecked and ran out of more towns then you and I – a man who in the process of being sentenced to death in Rome – could say:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)

God’s peace is not depending on our situation; it is only depended on Him. This is why a young teenage girl named Mary could withstand the looks, words and problems that came with becoming pregnant out of wedlock. Everyone thought she had broken her vows to Joseph, her fiancé. Even Joseph thought she had slept with someone else. But Mary knew she was pregnant not by human will, but by the Spirit of God.

God Himself choose her as a friend and servant to give birth to Jesus the Messiah. And the only way Mary was able to keep going was become of the peace that comes through knowing the One True Lord. The same is true for us. The only way that we are going to be able to live this life is through knowing the One True Lord, the Prince of Peace, the Lord of Peace,  Yahweh Shalom

Salvation of Peace

As we remember the First Advent (or Arrival) of our Lord and Savior Jesus, we must remember that it was an invasion into this Present Evil Age. Jesus came that we might have life and salvation for our souls and life. He came that day long ago in Bethlehem to destroy the works of the evil one.

To have His peace, we must bow our knees in submission to Him, giving Him complete control over our lives. We have to repent of our evil ways and desires and ask for His forgiveness – saying that we are ready to stop trying to gain peace on our own. We must say that we are ready to start living with Him as His friends and children

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  (Colossians 3:1-17)

Advent Prayer

God of the watching ones, give us Your benediction.

God of the waiting ones, give us your good word for our souls

God of the watching ones the slow and the suffering ones, give us Your benediction,

Your good word for our souls that we might rest.

God of the watching ones, the waiting ones, the slow and the suffering ones, 

and the angels in heaven, and the child in the womb, give us your benediction,

your good word for our souls, that we might rest and rise in the kindness of your company.

Celtic Advent Prayer

celtic_christmas_nativity_artworkGod of the watching ones, give us Your benediction.

God of the waiting ones, give us your good word for our souls

God of the watching ones the slow and the suffering ones, give us Your benediction,

Your good word for our souls that we might rest.

God of the watching ones, the waiting ones, the slow and the suffering ones,

and the angels in heaven, and the child in the womb, give us your benediction,

your good word for our souls, that we might rest and rise in the kindness of your company.